The Southeastern Conference traditionally has not been known for its Tight Ends, but but there are several that should garner attention in the next season. Our list of the top 5 wide-receivers in the conference heading into 2010 is led by two seniors who play integral parts in their teams' success.
When Arkansas' D.J. Williams is No. 3 on any list of best tight ends, you know it's a crazy good group. There are all kinds of shape and sizes on this list from huge guys who can bulldoze defensive ends and catch passes to long and lean deep threats. Any of these five players could be first-team All-SEC, and even first-team All-America, when the season is through.
Outlook: Saunders is big in size (see above) and big in personality (see his prolific Twitter account). If he's working as hard this offseason as his tweets indicate, he could be a beast this year. He's got the size and athleticism to be a dominant blocker, and he can be explosive in the passing game. Saunders caught eight passes for 96 yards against Georgia and five passes for 62 yards against Florida last season. If he puts it together this year, he'll be a great friend to whomever the South Carolina quarterback is and he'll be a first round NFL Draft pick.
Luke Stocker, Tennessee, senior, 6-6, 253 pounds
Outlook: The only thing Stocker needs to be an SEC force is a consistent quarterback. The senior has the rest of the tools, including a new coaching staff that probably will be good to him. Stocker considered leaving Tennessee early after Lane Kiffin took off last season, but you can bet Derek Dooley pointed out to Stocker that tight end Dennis Morris led Louisiana Tech in catches last year. Morris had 38 catches and 12 touchdowns for Dooley last year. Stocker could have those kind of numbers in a Volunteer offense that will be looking for playmakers.
D.J. Williams, Arkansas, senior, 6-2, 251 pounds
Outlook: Williams is probably the surest bet on this list and could have a long pro career. He only has two problems. The first is his height, which is less than prototypical. The second is the myriad of other options Arkansas has in the passing game. Williams may not put up gaudy stats for the season, but there will be at least one week when he pops up and has a crazy stat line. Just ask South Carolina, which gave up seven catches for 137 yards to him last season. Not that he'll get much credit for this from the casual observer, but he's also a terrific and willing blocker.
Orson Charles, Georgia, sophomore, 6-3, 235 pounds
Outlook: So far the best story about Charles is that he shattered Florida's 2008 BCS national championship trophy on a recruiting visit.
He may finally make people think about something else this year. The best news for Charles is he will be reunited with former high school teammate Aaron Murray, who was Charles quarterback at Plant High School in Florida and will be the Bulldogs quarterback this year. Charles' high school numbers show his potential – 75 catches for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns AND seven sacks and three fumble recoveries for touchdowns in his senior season alone. He's a special talent with all the tools.
Phillip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, sophomore, 6-4, 246 pounds
Outlook: Lutzenkirchen was ranked the No. 8 tight end in the country by Scout.com two years ago, but he made only fleeting appearances on the Tigers' stat sheet last season, catching just one pass in the final five games. However, Tommy Trott is no longer on The Plains, and Lutzenkirchen is the prototype for the kind of H-back/tight end that Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn uses in his offense. Lutzenkirchen missed some time this spring after taking an awkward fall on his head, but he could emerge as a very pleasant surprise in the league.